Touching Bases: Aero Sport mixes business and fun flying

 - May 29, 2008, 10:13 AM

Located at St. Augustine (Fla.) Airport (SGJ), Aero Sport has made its name as a sport and aerobatic flying headquarters. The company is the exclusive North American distributor for Extra Aircraft, the German manufacturer of competition-level, composite aerobatic airplanes and the Extra 400, a four-place, pressurized piston single. With recent refocusing on its FBO side, Aero Sport has diversified its interests, seeing a 15-percent increase in fuel sales last year, with a similar increase expected for this year. Aero Sport sold more than a million gallons of jet-A last year and better than 350,000 gal of 100LL. Capital improvements include construction of a new 10,000-sq-ft common hangar and four 3,600-sq-ft corporate tenant hangars. The existing 10,000-sq-ft hangar has also been refurbished and the ramp area repaved. Separately, the St. Augustine Airport has begun construction of a new control tower slated for completion in March.

Diane Moser, Aero Sport CEO, said, “Aircraft sales were $7 million in 2000 and about $9 million last year. Yearly, Aero Sport sells about 25 new and 25 used aircraft. On the FBO side of the business, jet fuel volumes run about half to based customers and half for transients.” Based customers have a bulk-fuel pre-buy option with increments from 3,000 to 8,000 gal, based on the previous year’s usage. Aero Sport hosts more than 80 based customers and sees a large transient presence from fractional operators, charter services and corporate flight departments.

Aero Sport president Michael Slingluff said, “The goal of our business plan was to create two supporting profit centers–aircraft sales and FBO services. This will help offset the burden of a downturn on either side. In 2000, our aircraft sales were doing much better than fuel sales. Last year, our fuel sales grew at a faster pace. The downturns tend to be cyclical and occur at different times for the two profit centers, so having them tied to each other helps with more level growth.”

Aero Sport is designated a Phillips 66 Aviation Performance Center, serviced by fuel distributor Ascent Technologies. The relationship with Phillips 66 includes a national advertising program and line-service training support. Slingluff said, “Marketing nationally for a small company like Aero Sport is challenging, and working through Ascent has proved to be the perfect fit. They have a long-term relationship with Phillips 66 and we get national exposure benefits from that. At the same time, Ascent itself is a hands-on, locally respected company so we get the benefits of that local presence as well.”